Capacity Planning for the Newly Virtual

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In the pre-virtualization era, wondering whether you had enough capacity to handle the day's workload was inconceivable. If your workstations were connected to their own servers, then of course there was enough capacity -- actually, there was more than enough.

But while virtualization eliminated that grossly inefficient practice, it introduced a need for robust capacity planning measures to ensure that data loads do not exceed available resources.

All the top virtualization platforms provide some form of capacity planning software, but there are a number of factors to instituting the proper polices and maintaining a workable planning regime as the enterprise expands, or contracts, according to business requirements.

This blog by Harris Kern, founder of the Enterprise Computing Institute, spells out the basics of capacity planning and provides a good heads-up on a number of issues that you might not otherwise consider until you encounter them, such as the rise of non-linear expenses when even slight increases in capacity suddenly require large capital expenditures. He also points out a number of side benefits to capacity planning beyond simplifying the hardware acquisition process, such as improving the collaborative relationships with and between suppliers, developers and end users.

Any effective capacity planning scheme will contain three essential elements, according to Russ Olsen, CIO of Healthcare Technology. These are:

  • measurement to ascertain critical data like IT resource availability, utilization and usage patterns
  • second-level analysis to focus on the long-term needs of the enterprise rather than the immediate concern to bump up resources
  • business realignment to ensure that IT is keeping pace with business needs, not the other way around

Olsen writes for a Windows-centric audience, but his tips should apply to the wider enterprise community.


When it comes to selecting the right tools, the list of available options keeps growing as virtualization gains in popularity. The newest entrant is Canada's Lanamark, which recently introduced the Lanamark Suite that contains a stack of modules governing discovery, monitoring, analysis and optimization of heterogeneous infrastructures. The company's claim to fame is that it works across multiple hypervisor environments and will help system integrators, in particular, optimize their clients' virtual frameworks.


For Windows users, one of the best resources is also free. The Microsoft Assessment and Planning (MAP) tool supports virtual hardware and applications for up to 50,000 computers. Version 3.0 came out in April for Virtual Server 2005 Release 2 and Application Virtualization 4.5. Version 3.1 is expected soon for 64-bit and Hyper-V environments.


VMware fans, meanwhile, can take advantage of the new Capacity Bottleneck Analyzer appliance from VKernel. The latest version, 1.2, adds a host of new features, including an improved capacity availability map, expanded dashboard capabilities and an updated VMware toolkit.


For those not familiar with the process, setting up a capacity planning scheme can be a little daunting. But like virtualization itself, capacity planning is a process, not a goal. As your virtual environment expands, so too should your commitment to ensuring that your physical environment can carry the load.